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When planning a trip to Thailand, one might envision elephant rides, and white sandy beaches. But if you really want to live as the Thais do, go shopping. Shopping is the unofficial national pastime of Thailand, and in the capital, shopping malls tower over every soi. Singapore may win for the number of shopping malls per square mile, but Bangkok comes in as a close second. It’s almost hard to not walk through a mall – to go grocery shopping, to watch a movie, to ice skate, to go to the gym, and to get the BTS. Many of the malls connect to each other, so you can mall hop from one to the next without ever having to breathe real air.
Another mall in Central Bangkok sounds yawn-worthy, at least until you walk inside. Opened in 2011, Terminal 21 boasts nine floors, each in the theme of its own designated city with recognisable landmarks. In defiance of any sense of geography, there’s Rome above Paris, then Tokyo, London, Istanbul, San Francisco and at the very top, where the cinema is located, Hollywood.
The theme is obvious: the whole world is here. You’ll never have to leave. And technically, this could be true – with free WiFi for visitors after checking in at the help desk, an SF Cinema, and a FitnessFirst. Eat, shop, be entertained, exercise, and travel across continents with just an easy ride up the escalator. The escalator itself is a sweeping 36 metres, and can whisk you from the ground floor directly to the fifth.
On the “Caribbean” lower ground floor, you will find Gourmet Market (with fresh organic fruit and a salad bar, but at a price), Bread Talk, Baskin Robbins, Mister Donut, Crepe Box, and a haven of snacks and desserts from small vendors — chocolate truffles, mini-cupcakes, soft-serve yogurt, and endless samples of cookies. Restaurants serving a range of cuisine are on each floor, but there is definitely a recurring Japanese and seafood theme.
If you’re on a budget in Bangkok, the mall’s cafeteria on the 5th floor, Pier 21, has cheap and fast eats. For 25-40 baht, lunch or dinner, you can get street-food inspired, hygienically cooked dishes, though some patrons have complained the vendors are skimpy on the portions. Unlike most of the food courts in Bangkok, frequenters can load their card with money for a full 30 days.
Still not impressed? The best part of Terminal 21 is not the designer name brands, which you can get elsewhere at cheaper prices, but the local designers’ shops. Many of the designers migrated from Chatuchak Market itself, and despite the blissful air-conditioning and polished floors, the small stalls are set up to emulate a night bazaar. Items range from around 600-2,000 baht, with affordable and original jewellery and accessories. The best quality seems to be on Floor 2, predominantly men’s clothing, with sturdy leather bags and screen-printed T-shirts.
One other piece of this well-done mall experience has everyone in Bangkok talking: the bathrooms. A stroke of genius mixed with envy for unnecessary Japanese technology has combined to create the magnificent Terminal 21 toilet — even the temperature of the seats can be adjusted to suit your optimum comfort. The bathrooms are elaborately themed to match the decorations outside, and are worthy of a trip to Terminal 21 alone.
2,88 Sukhumvit Soi 19 (Wattana) Sukhumvit Road, North Klongtoei, Bangkok
T: (02) 108 0888
How to get there
Terminal 21 is centrally located on Sukhumvit Rd at Soi 19 with an entrance directly from the sky-walk that extends from Asok BTS station. Sukhumvit MRT station is also right around the corner. To check movie times, visit www.sfcinemacity.com and scroll to "Terminal 21".